How many sacraments does the United Church of Christ celebrate? Don’t look ahead! Do you know the answer? Ask a pew mate. See if they know. Any more, or less than two is the wrong answer. Yes. Other Christian denominations have more. No. Marriage is not a sacrament in our tradition. We celebrate Baptism and Holy Communion. Both are, for us, about community, about being gathered and called by the grace of God and about sharing in the life of Christ.
For Baptism, it’s all about the water. We all use water. It’s just that some of us use different amounts. It can happen at any age–from 1 hour old to 125 years–any age works. And, you only get one…no do-overs. Finally, baptism is a communal affair. It’s a ritual and a sign about belonging to one another so, most of us celebrate baptisms during worship. Here’s a rundown of some of our practices.
THE WATER: It cleans and purifies. We speak of the one baptized as dying and rising with Christ. Thus, the water is a vehicle for going under it and rising up. Some people sprinkle water on the head of the person three times for each part of the Trinity, and some dip into the water with fingers and make a sign of the cross on a forehead, and some, like Reverend Amy Lignitz Harken, Minister, Mattapoisett Congregational Church, have baptized in the waters of the ocean. You can read her story on the Massachusetts Conference blog. She says, “Standing on a beach under an overcast sky was as much a naked expression of faith as an ashy forehead smear on Ash Wednesday. And it moved them, and me, deeply.”
ANY AGE: Our tradition makes it possible for infant baptism. Parents speak the promises about faithful participation and discipleship and then, when the child is confirmed they repeat those promises. But, anyone can be baptized at any age. Who was the oldest person you ever saw baptized?
NO D-OVERS: Some traditions say that you need to be baptized in their tradition. We don’t believe that the still speaking God keeps records about what words were used by what denomination when everyone was baptized. No do-overs are ever necessary.
If you want to know more about Baptism and the United Church of Christ, you can find resources by going to uccresources.com.